The Son of Zeus vs. the Son of Odin
"Norse by Norsewest" Plot Summary:
Hercules dreams of rescuing an unknown blonde man from a thrown knife, then being unable to save him from other weapons. He and the man both wake simultaneously in panic. Mabon is with Hercules and tells the hero that he has had a vision. Leaving Morrigan in Mabon's care, Hercules decides he must leave Ireland and go to the north to save this stranger's life. As he travels, a scribe paints his journeys in a book with runes.
Arriving in frigid Norse territory, Hercules hears a scream and rescues a woman from the stocks where men are hurling weapons at her. But it turns out they're her father and brother, trying to cut off her braids in order to defend her honor. After fighting with the family, Hercules takes a bolt from a supernatural hammer, and learns during the struggle that he's fighting Thor, son of Odin, God of Thunder. Hercules, Son of Zeus, God of Thunder, is unimpressed with this pedigree and grateful when Balder, also a son of Odin, stops the fighting. He and Balder recognize one another from their dreams, and Balder realizes Hercules must not be mortal if he could fight Thor. Then Balder is summoned by the prayers of mortals to save a warrior, and Hercules is surprised to see a god caring for mortals. Balder's brother Loki explains that Balder stands for peace and justice and is the only reason the people have survived in this harsh land. But the Norns - their Fates - have written that Balder will die, and Hercules sees the page with the painting of Balder on a funeral pyre.
Loki turns into a wolf and flees, entering a cave where an unknown dark god gives him a dart poisoned with his own blood, which he says can kill a god. Meanwhile Hercules goes to an inn seeking shelter and realize that the Norse people spend most of their time brawling and eating bad food. Balder tells Hercules not to judge them harshly - their lives are very hard, and strength means survival. Hercules is grateful that Balder keeps his fire lit, but is not pleased to encounter again the girl with the braids who got him in trouble, nor the warlike tribe. Meanwhile, Freya, Queen of the Gods, begs Odin to protect her favorite son. He demands an oath from all the living and the dead to protect Balder, which does not please Loki, who then tells Thor that they should prove to Balder that he can't be harmed.
When Hercules awakens, a Norn is in his room painting the Book of Fate - the page where Balder dies. Hercules demands to know where this will take place and runs to the rescue, but she warns him that he cannot stop what will be. Arriving, Hercules stops a knife hurled at Balder just like in his dream, but Balder tells him that he can no longer be harmed, not even when the entire tribe throws weapons at him, nor by Thor's hammer. Balder insists that Hercules test the charm himself. A little girl hands Hercules a dart, which he tosses casually at Balder...who collapses and dies. It was the poisoned dart given to Loki, which is who the girl transforms into. Loki encases Hercules in stone, telling the hero that he'll be back for him, while a devastated Thor takes Balder's body to Odin. While the Norse gods hold a funeral pyre, Hercules breaks free, learns from the girl he "rescued" that the gods live in Asgard on the other side of the rainbow bridge from Midgard where the mortals live. He heads to the bridge, but is met by Thor, who has been provoked by Loki to punish Hercules.
Hercules and Thor fight and fall to Earth from the bridge, where Hercules tries to tell Thor that Loki killed his brother, but Thor won't listen. Watching them through a scry, Odin demands to know why Loki didn't stop Thor from leaving, but Loki says he couldn't. Hercules defeats Thor by throwing his hammer into a cave, then knocking the god out and climbing with him to Asgard. Odin tells Thor he has doomed them all and throws him out a window with a lightning bolt. Then the king of the Norse gods explains to Hercules that Thor's defeat is the second part of a prophecy about the end of time for them - Balder's death was the first. In the Norn book of fate, this is the beginning of the Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods.
As far as I recall from my Norse mythology, the only part of this story which is accurate is Freya's demand that all living things swear not to hurt Balder, though Loki tricked some other god into killing him. But my husband assures me that Hercules made a guest appearance in the Thor comic books, so maybe there is historical precedent for this storyline. Anyway, it doesn't really matter because this is a pretty cool two-parter (next week: "They call it Ragnarok, we call it ARMAGEDDON!"). Balder and Thor are both appealing characters, the light and dark sides of Hercules himself, while Loki the trickster has an interesting hidden agenda. Just one thing: if that evil god he's working for turns out to be Dahok, I'll puke. But I won't be surprised, because I still expect to see Iolaus back one of these days, and Dahok's the one who killed him.
There's nice continuity in this episode: it opens with Hercules taking care of Morrigan and her child, and ends with him discovering he's gotten himself stuck in yet another war of the gods. The idea that Norse gods can be murdered has to be chilling for him, though we haven't seen him deal with this story on any but the most reactive level: getting angry at Loki, trying to knock some sense into Thor, ranting at the violent Vikings who for all their posturing are pretty passive. The ice cave where Loki meets the dark god looks a lot like Superman's home in the clouds from the Christopher Reeve movies, and everything's a lot darker than usual, with snow and clouds everywhere - nice directing. I'm enjoying this, but I hope the Viking myths don't get destroyed completely - they've already rewritten the Book of Fate enough.